Guitar Festival Nordhorn 2014

Meeting Again...

Thursday night 24 April 2014. At a moderate speed, I am rushing the long straight road between Oldenzaal and Denekamp, two townlets in the eastern part of Holland. In days long ago the tracks of a local railway were located here, and now the road that replaces them is remarkably straight for this part of the country. The spring is in full bloom, the trees alongside the road wear their fresh green outfit and the fields are full of life.

I have worked all day and I am a bit tired. Under normal circumstances at this time I take a little nap on the couch at home, just relaxing with suitable music on my headphones, just closing my eyes for a while. But not today, I have better things to do than dozing off in the dusk...

I am on my way to Nordhorn, a town in the Lower Saxony district in Germany, just over the border. I used to go there for cheap petrol at the Kaufhalle, for a sandwich at Restaurant Vechte, or to go to the personnel shop of the Nino spinning mill for some textile goods, usually together with my wife, kids and mother in law. That’s a long time ago, even now the petrol is cheap again, you cannot go to the Kaufhalle any more, it’s been closed and the building is a ruin. Restaurant Vechte is more or less devoured by a shopping mall, and the Nino spinning mill has been closed down in the last century, only its Hochbau, the old office building, is still there, but all its personnel has been laid off.

Now I have got another destination. Kulturhaus Niet In Het Zwart (NIHZ) (freely translated Music House Not Dressed in Black) at the Mittelstrasse. The enterprise of Bobby and Sanna Rootveld. It is the place where they organize the Guitar Festival Nordhorn (GFN) for the fourth time in a row.

I pass the bridge over the Dinkel river, a beautiful meandering stream that was formed after the last Ice Age in this region. Officially I am leaving the district of Twente as it is described in the Twente Anthem by the poet Jacobus Joannes van Deinse (1867 - 1947), because in his famous poem he writes There is a land between the banks of the Regge and Dinkel. In front of me lies the Scandinavia Route, a bit premature name for the ring-road that keeps passers-by out of the centre of the village of Denekamp. Here the countryside wears spring adornment too.

My car radio plays Platero y Yo by Eduardo Sainz de la Maza in a nice performance by Alex Garrobé.

My thoughts linger back to 2006, the year that Bobby Rootveld and his friends organised the first Twente Guitar Festival in the town of Enschede. During the final concert in a chock-full Concordia Theatre the Belgian guitarist Yves Storms at that time played the full Platero y Yo suite and told the story of the little donkey Platero in a wondrous combination of music and fairy tale. Ah, those lingering thoughts, they make me look forward to a pleasant reunion! That’s exactly where I am bound for at this moment, meeting again, a pleasant reunion. I’ll meet again the friends of the three previous Guitar Festivals in Nordhorn.

Onwards goes the drive. The border crossing is busier at night. Many truck drivers come here to spend the night off-the-road and meet each other. The border supermarket Tensundern likes to receive some late customers!

I take a slightly shorter route through Nordhorn, I take a turn right near the old Kaufhalle (it’s a ruin now) and drive along the church that carries solar cells on its bell tower (yes, also for solar energy all good things come from above). Then I take a left turn, cross the railway track of the Bentheimer Eisenbahn, pass an old ramshackle industrial estate and finally reach the neighbourhood where Kulturhaus NIHZ is located.

I carry a rucksack with some prizes for the amateur competition. I participate in it too! I have a few books of the DOS Amigos Homepage Collection including the newest book A Night at the Opera with opera arrangements by Johann Kaspar Mertz.

This Thursday night is the Welcome Party that includes the draw of the professional and amateur competitions. When I enter the building, I notice that it is pretty crowded already, a lot of participants have arrived in the afternoon. That’s good for the atmosphere and makes sure that we are less busy with intakes the next morning.

I make a start saying hello to all people that I got acquainted with on the previous festivals. The core team: Bobby and Sanna van Elst, Fred and Angie Rootveld, Martin and Henk Olden. Some of the musicians of this weekend: Annette Kruisbrink and Arlette Ruelens of the Anido Guitar Duo, and Carlé Costa with his girl-friend. I see well-known faces: Nandini Sudhir and her mother Pallavi from India. And so I say hello to many more people that I ever saw here, and it’s a pleasure to meet them again.

The Welcome Party starts in style! Duo NIHZ (Bobby and Sanna) and the Anido Guitar Duo (Annette and Arlette) give a taste of what will be most important the coming days: Music!

The concert hall is packed. An attentive spectator will notice immediately that the stage is not the only place of interest. The walls that used to be bare show an exposition now. Arlette Ruelens exhibits an extensive collection of tempera paintings. She works with abstract motives in a characteristic colour palette that appears in various spectra on the canvas. In her work she experiments with symmetry, quasi-symmetry, different colour distribution and contrast in materials. One of the examples is a painting in which the waves of the sea embrace the dawn in the vertical plane, which is an interesting variation on the usual sunset at the coast.

It is funny that a poem by the ancient Roman poet Ovidius Naso comes to my mind while I am observing the painting with the sea/dawn symmetry. When I was attending Grammar School as a kid, we were quite busy with the translation from the Latin language of the works by this poet.

The poem that I was thinking about was the Phaëton from the Metamorfosis, the Roman myth that recounts that it is quite dangerous to take a ride in your father’s Porsche without a driver’s licence. In the story, this Porsche is the chariot of the sun god that carries the light of day between dawn and dusk. A further moral from this story is that as a parent you should not promise things that you cannot fulfil. In the poem Ovidius’ description of the dawn Aurora in fact describes Arlette’s painting. Anyway, if you want to know more about this Latin work, take a look on Internet where you can find translations of most classics.

The draw for the amateur competition emerges from a bucket with Ping-Pong balls. I am the first to play on Saturday. That gives me the opportunity to listen to the others!

After the official opening, we have a good time at the bar while Henk Olden plays a nice piece of Flamenco on the “open guitar” on the open stage.